How much alcohol is good for you?

All the studies about alcohol can leave you a bit confused. But research suggests that you still need to keep moderation in mind when you raise a glass.

I have previously written about red wine in particular, and the suggestion that it can boost health, especially heart health, because of its antioxidant resveratrol.

Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss. A new study, published in the Lancet, found that the risk of mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption. More importantly, the level of consumption that minimizes health loss is zero.

Some numbers…

How much alcohol is good for you?

Impact on health

A recent study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that:

  • Alcohol is the 7th risk factor for death and disability in general, and 1st in the age group 15-49
  • Risk of death rises with increasing consumption
  • Alcohol contributes to 2% of female and 7% of male deaths worldwide
  • The safest amount of drinking is no alcohol

Alcohol-related diseases

  • Alcohol affects negatively multiple medical conditions
  • Cancer is the leading cause of alcohol-related deaths for people older than 50
  • Road injuries, violence, self-induced accidents, and tuberculosis for people between 15 and 49
glass of wine
By the way, the health benefits of a glass of wine a day are not retroactive.

But my cardiologist told me to drink 1-2 glasses of wine every night…

  • Prior studies have shown that one drink a day for women and two for men may reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • The current study:
    • Confirmed this trend, but
    • When all risks/diseases are included (e.g. accidents, canner, infection), alcohol is always associated with lower life expectancy

In summary

  • Alcohol is one of the leading causes of death worldwide
  • Its consumption is associated with multiple medical problems, including cancer, injuries, and infection
  • The risks of drinking alcohol outweigh any benefits
  • The only safe amount of alcohol is no alcohol at all

Tasos Gogakos
Weill Cornell/ Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering
Tri-Institutional MD/PhD Program

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